Thursday 16 January 2014

Rally - Champs in trouble

Big crowds in France
Holding fourth, seventh and ninth places at the end of Day 1, the reigning World Rally Champion team was in uncharted water, or should that be, on a slippery slope?

Best placed driver in fourth place, S├ębastien Ogier commented: “A classic start to the ‘Monte’, with absolutely crazy weather conditions. Nobody in our team had anticipated snow on the stages. Unfortunately this meant we had completely the wrong tyres in the morning. There was absolutely no snow on the road on the way to the start of the first stage, but everything was white less than a hundred metres later. When you are the first car onto the route with slicks, it is anything but an advantage. I slid into a wall with the left side of the car in the first corner. Fortunately there was only minor damage, and I was able to continue. The guys were then able to fix the Polo up perfectly in the 30-minute midday service. Despite being on winter tyres, we still had a few hairy moments in the afternoon, as the conditions were extremely unpredictable today. It is still a long way to the finish in Monaco. The motto for the next couple of days is: attack, but not at any cost.”

Jari-Matti Latvala added: “The snow caught us out this morning, having fitted slicks. On snow, they feel like completely bare summer tyres – and that is anything but fun. I was very cautious and unfortunately lost a lot of time in the morning. In the afternoon, we were spot on with the winter tyres. They worked superbly on the roads, which were very dirty in places. There is still a long way to go, and there could still be a lot of surprises in store. We will continue to try to bring the car home safely and pick up as many points as possible.”

In ninth place, an upbeat Andreas Mikkelsen said: “What an incredible day – typical ‘Monte’. We set off on the first stage fully expecting the route to be dry. I could hardly believe my eyes when we came across snow just a few corners in. Neither our ice spies nor our weather crew, including ourselves, had seen that coming. It was obviously no fun out there on the slicks we had on. We took an extremely cautious approach, which, when travelling downhill and in the corners, meant we were going at less than walking pace in places. We played safe with the tyre selection for the afternoon loop – winter tyres and two sets of spikes in the boot. That made the special stages far easier and safer. We learned a lot today.”

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